A chatty, engaging memoir of the author's adventurous life as a teenaged boy during the '40s.
At age 13, Isom, an African-American boy growing up in St. Louis, decided he could not abide school any longer. Manipulating his loving but distant mother, his separated alcoholic father and his father's live-in significant other, Isom became a truant. He worked odd jobs, returned to school when caught by the authorities, then, at age 14, just months after the end of World War II, persuaded the adults in his life to vouch for him as he joined the U.S. Navy. Placed in an all African-American unit for boot camp in Bainbridge, MD, Isom labored to fit in despite his unworldliness. He tells of futile attempts to lose his virginity to women picked up in bars; being posted to Boston by the Navy; receiving an assignment on the troop transport ship U.S.S. General A.E. Anderson; sailing to San Francisco, Hawaii and Japan; and looking for love during shore leaves. Choosing to go absent without permission, he and two Navy buddies end up court-martialed and imprisoned by military authorities. The consequences are minimal, as Isom serves his time, then joins the crew of the U.S.S. Shelton, a destroyer. He leaves the military in 1947, a veteran at just 16 years of age. Upon returning to St. Louis, he renews his family ties but sees no reason to remain for the rest of his life. Seemingly restless without end, he hits the road again, finding employment, giving it up, moving on. In 1951, he marries and settles down. It is only in an author's note after the narrative ends that readers learn that he eventually earned a doctorate and became a professional educator in New York.
A capably written account by a teacher who hopes to reach today’s troubled, nonconformist youth.